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88 Rapa Nui Journal Vol.

28 (1) May 2014

Book Reviews
Shepardson, Britton L.
Moai: A new look at
old faces
Hanga Roa: Rapanui
Press, 2013. 255 pp.
ISBN 978-956-9337-00-
0. US$30 (softcover).
Available at from and
Review by Alex E. Morrison,
The University of Auckland
Moai: A new look at old faces, by Britton L. Shepardson,
is a unique combination of the personal experiences of
an archaeologist conducting feldwork on Rapa Nui
juxtaposed against the results of innovative computer
and mathematical techniques aimed at exploring
unresolved questions about Rapa Nuis famous
megaliths. The item sports a sleek and attractive
appearance and is suitable for placement on an offce
desk or even a coffee table.
Upon initial inspection, this book is clearly more
than the usual picturesque journey through the statues
of Rapa Nui. There is uniqueness in the way that
Shepardson crafts his own personal feld experiences
alongside often complex quantitative analytic
techniques. The eleven chapters alternate between
narratives drawn from the authors extensive feldwork
on Rapa Nui and his attempts to resolve questions
about the chronology, location, and explanations for
why the moai were constructed.
In my opinion, the strongest points of this book
are the often hilarious and heartfelt experiences that
Shepardson so accurately depicts about the struggles
of conducting archaeological feldwork in a foreign
and isolated place. Some of these struggles include the
need to be fexible when things do not go according
to plan, the diffculties of being an outsider in a new
place, and even dangerous encounters with the local
insect populations. In the course of these descriptions,
the author explores important contemporary issues
regarding indigenous perspectives on archaeology,
the politicization of scientifc knowledge, and the
need to operate with a conservation ethic when
conducting archaeological research. Clearly,
Shepardson has thought hard on these issues and
his extensive feldwork on the island gives him an
intimate perspective on the challenges that face the
Rapa Nui community.
In terms of the archaeological analysis of the
moai, the author presents a series of rather complex
quantitative analyses incorporating seriations,
statistical models, and computer simulations in order
to address when, where, and why the moai were
constructed. While upon frst look these analyses
appear to be so specialized as to render them
incomprehensible to many non-specialists, Shepardson
does a remarkable job of explaining the techniques in a
clear and understandable manner.
In Chapter 6, Shepardson develops a multivariate
seriation program he calls Shortest Patch Seriation
(SPS) to address the question of when the moai were
carved. I will not attempt to describe the model here,
except only to explain that the algorithm takes metric
data of multiple moai attributes and then calculates a
relative ordering solution based on a gradualness
criteria. It is not clear how the author roots these
relative orderings or assigns absolute dates to each of
the statues in the absence of independent chronometric
determinations. It appears that a Bayesian prior
distribution drawn from associated ahu dates is
used as a terminus post quem for the construction of
corresponding moai and therefore provides some form
of chronologic constraint for the items in the seriation.
I have to admit that I do not agree with the use of a few
of Shepardsons analytic assumptions operationalized
in the Shortest Path Seriation. First, the model assumes
that the rate of change throughout the sequence is
constant and we are never told what this rate is, or
given a rationale for why it was chosen. Phylogenetic
trees developed in genetic research often model rates
of change in order to determine the time period when
sub-lineages split off from parent populations, but rates
of change in genetics demonstrate higher fdelity in
transmission and their replication systems are far better
studied and understood than the transmission of cultural
information. There are reasons to believe that some
attributes of moai design will be infuenced by abrupt
innovations in carving technology, logistic population
growth, as well as periodic changes in social political
structure on the island. Attention to the classifcation
of moai attributes used in the seriations according to
traits that are determined to be selectively neutral may
help to justify the use of the gradualness criteria and the
constant rate of change assumption. It should be noted
that Shepardson is well aware of the potential problems
associated with these assumptions, as he makes explicit
note that the results need to be independently verifed.
In Chapter 8, Shepardson presents his argument for
a spatial association between inland moai locations and
the territorial land divisions documented by Katherine
Routledge. He disagrees with the commonly held idea
that the majority of inland statues were abandoned
in transport, and instead hypothesizes that many of
these moai were used as territorial markers. In order
89 Rapa Nui Journal Vol. 28 (1) May 2014
to provide evidence for his argument, Shepardson
compares the distances of these moai to the proposed
territorial boundaries and then compares these data to
a set of random points. His results suggest a strong
signifcant correlation between moai and territorial
boundaries when compared to the random dataset.
Shepardsons hypothesis is indeed an interesting
one and upon simple visual inspection, there does
appear to be a correlation between the territorial
boundaries and the location of some of the inland moai.
However, there are a few precautions one needs to take
when quantifying spatial relationships. Spatial data are
fundamentally different than the types of observations
treated in classical statistical analyses. More often than
not, events close in space are not independent of each
other and therefore violate fundamental principles
of classical statistical theory such as stationarity in
variance and mean. Quantitative geographers have
been working on the non-stationarity problem since
the mid-20th century and most spatial statistical
analyses now incorporate some assessment of the
spatial autocorrelation or trend of a dataset and utilize
differential weighting in order to model the covariance
of these observations. In short, spatial autocorrelation
increases the potential for a Type I error and must
therefore be assessed. While this caveat does not
necessarily discount Shepardsons hypothesis, it does
open up the potential for future statistical modelling,
especially since Shepardson has made the moai dataset
publicly available through
Finally, Britton L. Shepardson makes an
important and valid point that to remain viable in the
future, archaeologists must now take a critical look
at how they conduct research on Rapa Nui. These
changes include making archaeological datasets
publicly available, the development of new analytic
techniques that do not destroy the archaeological
record, and perhaps most importantly, the training and
incorporation of indigenous people in archaeological
feldwork. Moai: A new look at old faces is a bold
movement in the right direction.
Fuentes, Miguel
(Ed.). Rapa Nui y la
Compaa Explotadora,
1895 1953.
Hanga Roa: Rapanui
Press, 2013. 408 pp.
ISBN 978-956-9337-02-4.
US$25 (softcover).
Available from
Review by Moira Fortin,
Victoria University
Cuando vi el ttulo del libro Rapa Nui y la Compaa
Explotadora, pens que se tratara de un libro ms
sobre la aparente represin brutal que el pueblo Rapanui
sufri durante la poca de la Compaa Williamson
Balfour y nada ms. Sin embargo, me sorprendi
ver la cantidad de disciplinas que se unieron en este
libro, otorgando una visin ms holstica del periodo,
contribuyendo con informacin nueva desde su rea de
expertise. Este libro de 405 pginas, segundo volumen
de la misma temtica, es un compendio de 15 artculos
los que estn divididos en seis secciones, la mayora de
las cuales cuenta con un prlogo independiente escrito
por acadmicos de diversas disciplinas, quienes estn
ligados a la investigacin en Rapa Nui.
Me parece fundamental que se est haciendo
investigacin sobre la historia del siglo XX en Rapa
Nui. La historia contempornea de la isla tambin
merece ser estudiada, o al menos alguna refexin al
respecto. En este sentido las secciones Antecedentes,
y Antropologa e Historia, nos brindan una
contextualizacin histrica, desde diferentes puntos
de vista, del ciclo ganadero de Rapa Nui, periodo
comprendido entre las primeras misiones catlicas
1860 hasta la inclusin de la isla a la administracin
Chilena en 1966.
Este volumen, adems, nos recuerda que la cultura
Rapanui es una cultura viva, que ha estado en constante
cambio, relacionndose con su medio, adaptndose y
adoptando nuevos patrones culturales. Los artculos
de Ramrez y Escobar, as como el de Fajreldin, hablan
precisamente de la relacin del pueblo Rapanui con
distintos aspectos que surgieron durante la poca de
la Compaa y a los cuales tuvieron que adaptarse;
la relacin de la comunidad Rapanui de la poca con
los patrones alimentarios que estuvieron sujetos a
continuos procesos de cambio. La problemtica de la
salud e historia de la implementacin de los servicios
de salud occidental en Rapanui aportan informacin
respecto de su relacin con la poblacin islea de la
poca, pero desde la perspectiva de la salud pblica.
Foerster y Moreno Pakarati refexionan en sus
respectivos artculos sobre la relacin que existi entre
la comunidad Rapanui y la Compaa. Foerster no solo
describe y analiza dicha relacin, sino que adems
aporta informacin indita acerca de la constitucin y
operacin de la Compaa, dando el marco necesario
para entender la historia contempornea de Rapanui.
Moreno Pakarati, por otro lado, se refere a dicha
relacin como la domesticacin del poder colonial,
defniendo dicha domesticacin como un conjunto
de estrategias que los Rapanui habran adoptado,
consciente o inconscientemente, para acercar el
poder colonial al sistema de la comunidad local.
Lo interesante de este artculo en particular es que el
autor refexiona como Rapanui sobre su propia historia
desde una cosmovisin que es propia de su cultura.
90 Rapa Nui Journal Vol. 28 (1) May 2014
Otro aspecto interesante de este libro es que nos
recuerda constantemente que no todo en Rapa Nui tiene
que ver con los restos arqueolgicos de la prehistoria
Rapanui, ni con los moai. El supuesto misterio
que rodea a los moai, por el cual son tan famosos
mundialmente, resulta en que vestigios como los del
complejo industrial de Vaitea pasen al olvido. Las
secciones Arqueologa y Arquitectura y Patrimonio
Histrico, Memoria e Identidad Rapanui, se enfocan
en este tema precisamente, en la necesidad de recuperar
los vestigios del pasado histrico de Rapanui.
Me llamo profundamente la atencin el artculo
de Vilches sobre las pircas, ya que en Rapa Nui las
pircas son parte del paisaje y de la vida diaria, pero uno
nunca se detiene a pensar en su importancia histrica.
En este artculo se describen distintos tipos de pircas,
as como el contrastante valor patrimonial que poseen
las pircas en relacin con los restos prehistricos
megalticos de Rapanui (moai) cuyo cuidado ha sido
mucho ms visible. Respecto de este ltimo punto, la
diferencia de la puesta en valor de los distintos restos
arqueolgicos que posee la isla, autores como Pineda
y Torres se referen a la escasa proteccin patrimonial
de sitios histricos, como el complejo industrial de
Vaitea, y a la urgencia de rescatar estos espacios de la
historia contempornea, no solo en virtud del cuidado
del patrimonio, sino que por sobre todo en virtud de
la recuperacin de la memoria, historia e identidad del
pueblo Rapanui.
Si bien el ttulo de este libro es Rapa Nui y la
Compaa Explotadora, abarca mucho ms que eso.
Aqu se analizan temas que tienen directa relacin
con el periodo de tiempo que estuvo en operacin
la Compaa en la isla, pero adems se analiza y se
refexiona sobre temas contingentes y confictos que
han resurgido en los ltimos aos en la isla. Temas
que si bien son del pasado refejan de algn modo
lo que sucede hoy en la isla. Los derechos sobre el
terreno Rapanui es sin duda uno de los confictos ms
recurrentes en la relacin entre el pueblo Rapanui
y el Estado Chileno. Este conficto, en su versin
contempornea, es analizado en detalle en los artculos
de la seccin Tierras y Conficto tnico Rapanui.
Delsing ofrece aqu una visin a los problemas
relacionados con la tenencia y propiedad de la tierra
en Rapa Nui. Adems explica que la fuente de dicho
conficto podra estar ligada a la no comprensin del
concepto de kainga, relacin indisoluble entre un
grupo sanguneo y su territorio (p. 342), por parte del
Estado Chileno. Un documento indito del Parlamento
Rapanui ofrece algunas perspectivas en torno a cmo
deberan afrontarse dichos confictos, siendo algunas
de sus perspectivas bastante radicales.
Si bien este libro es bastante especifco respecto
al tema y periodo histrico que aborda, la variedad de
disciplinas y puntos de vista que rene hacen que el
texto se abra al lector, otorgndole una visin holstica
de este periodo de la historia Rapanui. La importancia
que yo le veo a este libro es la posibilidad de tomar
un periodo histrico de la isla, analizar su evolucin y
refexionar sobre su aparente desenlace, digo aparente
porque creo que nada est resuelto an en la historia
Rapanui. Sin nimo de polemizar, creo que este texto
podra servir como punto inicial al momento de tomar
cualquier decisin futura respecto de las tierras en
Vaitea, especialmente ahora que se est decidiendo
qu hacer con dicho patrimonio. Un texto donde
un ejemplo del pasado podra ayudar a autoridades
Rapanui a delinear futura toma de decisiones respecto
de la cultura, memoria y manejo de las tierras del
pueblo Rapanui.
When I saw the title of the book, Rapa Nui y la
Compaa Explotadora, I thought it would be a book
about the apparent brutal repression that the Rapanui
people suffered during the time of the Williamson
Balfour Company and nothing else. However, I was
surprised to see the amount of disciplines brought
together in this book, providing a more holistic view
of the period, contributing new information from
each area of expertise. This book of 405 pages, the
second volume on the same subject, is a compendium
of 15 articles which are divided into six sections, most
of which have a separate foreword written by scholars
from various disciplines, whose work is linked to
research on Rapa Nui.
It is my opinion that research on Rapa Nui history
of the twentieth century is crucial. The contemporary
history of the island also deserves to be studied, or at
least to be refected upon. In this sense, both sections
Antecedentes and Antropologa e Historia give us
a historical context, from different points of view, about
the cattle cycle of Rapa Nui, and the period between
the frst Catholic missions from 1860 to the inclusion
of the island by the Chilean Government in 1966.
This volume also reminds us that the Rapanui culture
is a living culture, constantly changing, interacting with
its environment, adapting and adopting new cultural
patterns. The articles from Escobar and Ramrez, as
well as the one from Fajreldin discuss precisely this;
the relationship Rapanui people had with different
aspects that arose during the time of the Company, to
which they had to adapt. Firstly, the relationship of the
Rapanui community of that time with dietary patterns
that were subject to continual change, and secondly,
the history of the implementation of Western health
services on Rapa Nui providing information about its
relationship with the islands population, but from the
perspective of public health.
Foerster and Moreno Pakarati refect in their articles
on the relationship that existed between the Rapanui
community and the Company. Foerster not only
91 Rapa Nui Journal Vol. 28 (1) May 2014
describes and analyzes this relationship, but also offers
new information about the formation and operation of
the Company, providing a framework for understanding
the contemporary history of Rapanui. Moreno Pakarati
refers to this relationship as the domestication of
colonial power, defning such domestication as a set
of strategies that the Rapanui would have adopted,
consciously or unconsciously, to bring the colonial
power into the local communitys system. One
interesting aspect about this particular article is that as
a Rapanui, the author refects on his own history from a
worldview that is specifc to his culture.
Another interesting aspect of this book is that it
constantly reminds us that not everything on Rapa
Nui has to do with the archaeological remains of
Rapanui prehistory or the moai. The alleged mystery
surrounding the moai, which are so famous worldwide,
results in that fact that other archaeological remains,
such as the industrial complex of Vaitea, pass into
oblivion. The sections Arqueologa y Arquitectura
and Patrimonio Histrico, Memoria e Identidad
Rapanui focus on precisely this issue, the need to
recover the remains of the historic past of Rapanui.
Vilches article on pircas deeply drew my attention,
mainly because on Rapa Nui the stone walls are part of
the landscape and daily life, but you never stop to think
about their historical signifcance. Different types of
stone walls, as well as the contrasting value that pircas
have when compared with the remains of Rapanui
megalithic prehistory (moai, whose care has been
much more visible), are described in this article. On
this last point, authors such as Pineda and Torres refer
to the difference in values that various archaeological
remains have and the poor heritage protection afforded
to historical sites, including the industrial complex of
Vaitea. They suggest the urgency in rescuing these
spaces of contemporary history, not only to preserve
the heritage, but above all to recover memory, history,
and identity of the Rapanui people.
Although the title of this book is Rapa Nui y la
Compaa Explotadora, it encompasses much more
than that. Here, issues that are directly related to the
time period that the Company was in operation on the
island are discussed, and current issues and conficts that
have emerged in recent years on the island are examined
and refected upon. Although these themes are from the
past, they somehow mirror what happens on the island
today. The Rapanui land rights are undoubtedly one of
the most recurrent conficts in the relationship between
the Rapanui people and the Chilean Government. This
confict, in its contemporary version, is examined in
detail in the articles of the section Tierras y Conficto
tnico Rapanui. Delsing offers here a hypothesis to the
problems related to land ownership on Rapa Nui. She
explains that the source of the confict could be linked
to the lack of understanding of the concept of kainga,
an indissoluble relation between blood group and their
territory (p. 342), by the Chilean State. An unpublished
document from the Rapanui Parliament offers some
perspective on how such conficts should be addressed,
although some of their viewpoints are rather radical.
Although this book is quite specifc on the subject
and historical period, it addresses the variety of
disciplines and viewpoints together that make the text
accessible to the reader, providing a holistic view of
this period of Rapanui history. The importance I see
to this book is the ability to take a historical period
of the island, analyze its progress, and refect on its
apparent outcome; I say apparent because I believe
that nothing is solved in the history of Rapanui yet.
Without wanting to be polemic, I think this text could
serve as a starting point when making any future
decisions regarding land in Vaitea, especially now
that decisions are being made about what to do with
that heritage. This is a text in which an example of the
past could help Rapanui authorities delineate future
decision-making regarding culture, memory, and land
management of the Rapanui community.
Hommon, Robert J. The
Ancient Hawaiian State:
Origins of a Political
New York: Oxford University
Press, 2013. 336 pp. ISBN
978-019-9916-12-2. US$56.18
(hardcover). Available
Review by Jennifer G. Kahn,
College of William & Mary
Recently, Hawaiian archaeology has been actively
engaged in meta-analysis, with three synthetic works
published since 2010 discussing long term socio-
political transformations in the archipelago. Hommons
The Ancient Hawaiian State is one of these current
works that tackles the question of social complexity
in pre-contact Hawaii head on. Much of the book
is crafted to propose a model for the emergence
of endogenous states in the Hawaiian archipelago.
Central to Hommons argument is the notion that eye-
witness historic accounts and later 19
century emic
accounts lend great strength to the historical analysis
of state emergence in Hawaii. The ability to complete
comparative analysis of social transformations in
Polynesian chiefdoms, all of whom share a common
cultural ancestor, is posited as another strength of the
Hawaiian case study.
92 Rapa Nui Journal Vol. 28 (1) May 2014
The Ancient Hawaiian State is comprised of four
main sections. The frst, organized in six chapters,
provides a detailed ethnographic summary of Hawaiian
life during the contact era. Each chapter offers data
relevant to the study of social complexity. For example,
The People explores rank and status in contact era
Hawaii, illustrating differences between commoners
and chiefs with respect to their relationship with
the land, kinship, and genealogy. In Government,
War, and Refuge, Hommon explains how the kings
advisors, chiefs themselves, formed a mobile court.
The mobile court served as a highly visible sign
of the rulers political power, but also served as a
political strategy to call on rival chiefs. In this section,
Hommon begins to construct an argument about
the dual nature of kingship, which he revisits when
building his model of state emergence in Hawaii. As
we lack a comprehensive ethnography of Hawaii,
Hommons masterful synthesis of a broad range of
ethnohistoric and ethnographic sources is a signifcant
contribution to the feld.
In Section 2, Hommon devotes two chapters to
discussing why Hawaii should be considered a state
society. His defnition of the state, as a durable,
large scale, territorially-based autonomous society in
which a centralized government, directed by a leader
or a group of leaders, employs legitimate political
power, backed by coercion, to exercise sovereignty
(p. 121) presages his later focus on coercive power
as central to the development of the Hawaiian state. I
found the discussion of Hawaiian bureaucracy and the
development and maintenance of a control hierarchy
particularly useful. Many aspects of Hommons
arguments have relevance for comparative research on
early state societies. A case in point is his claim that in
early states, the role of the bureaucrat and the retainer
may be diffcult to distinguish from one another.
In Chapter 8, Hommon proposes, contra Yoffee
(2005), that examples like Hawaii which fall between
rigid typological state or non-state arguments can be
the most instructive for understanding the evolution
of social complexity. For example, why did urban
development, such as dense towns and nucleated
settlements, fail to develop in Hawaii to the same
extent as in other archaic states? While Kirch (2010)
has argued that large elite residences were palaces,
Hommon acknowledges that this hypothesis requires
testing with intensive archaeological research.
Similarly, while Hawaiian temples, or heiau, are the
largest among those found in Polynesia, they are less
elaborate that those found in other state societies. Yet,
as Hommon outlines, other aspects of the Hawaii
case study ft well within expectations for emergent
states. The estimated pre-contact Hawaiian population
of 250,000 people certainly is within the range for
medium-sized archaic states. There is strong evidence
for expansionist warring polities in the late pre-contact
and contact period. As Hommon stresses, while
these emergent polities were fragile, they had some
durability: eight political polities had been merged into
three, the Big Island had fairly sustained polities that
appear to have functioned as states, and at least two
multi-island states had some longevity.
In Section 2, Hommon explores Hawaii as
a unique case study due to eye-witness and emic
accounts describing some of the socio-political shifts
developing in the late pre-contact to post-contact
periods. While the rich historic and ethnohistoric
literature surely provide access to data not seen in the
archaeological record, such as the cultural relevance
of political actions and the motivations of rulers, the
majority of such accounts, European and Hawaiian
alike, only refer to the lives of the ruling elites. A heavy
reliance on such accounts, seen in both Hommon and
Kirchs recent study (2010), leads to top-down analyses
that, whether intended or not, place much social and
political agency in the hands of the chiefs and kings,
to the detriment of the commoners. Hommons study,
while expertly synthesizing much of the historic data,
also fails to adequately problematize the use of such
texts. Given that oral traditions and genealogies could
shift through time based on political allegiances, one
has to critically compare accounts to search for points
of convergence and divergence. Similarly, the explorer
accounts are potentially biased, typically offering only
male, Western views of chiefy life, by visitors who
often lacked good language skills, stayed for short
periods of time, or only visited particular islands or
particular coastal regions. For a study that utilizes
historic accounts in such an integrated fashion, I would
like to see a section problematizing the use of such
accounts, preferably outlining particular methods the
author has used to ameliorate potential biases.
Section 3 exemplifes the strength of compara-
tive analyses focused on the emergence of social
complexity in Polynesia. Hommon provides
instructive comparisons with Tikopia, the Society
Islands, the Marquesas Islands, and Tonga. Utilizing
primarily ethnographic data, Hommon outlines
key elements of rulership. His focus on symbolic
versus active chiefs, and nested hierarchies, is an
important contribution to the feld. It is here that
Hommon develops his economically-based hard-
time hypothesis, arguing that active rulership with
potentially transformative effects develops during
times of productive shortfalls. For many Oceanic
scholars, these comparative chapters will do much to
contextualize the development of social complexity in
the region. However, in contrast to the later Hawaii
chapters, the comparative case studies rely almost
wholly on ethnographic data, creating scalar and
temporal conficts in the comparative analyses.
93 Rapa Nui Journal Vol. 28 (1) May 2014
In the last three chapters, Hommon develops his
model of state emergence in Hawaii, integrating
several key hypotheses that he has put forth over the
last decades, including the intensifcation of sweet
spots, salubrious cores, full land situations, and the hard
times hypothesis. Central to his model is perceived
food stress and surplus shortfalls in the minds of the
ruling chiefs, which led to suites of political activities
that eventually led to the emergence of states. While
Hommons model stresses the importance of the
economy and demographic change, it focuses on
political centralization enacted by Hawaiian rulers
as ultimately leading to socio-political change. Hard
times led Hawaiian rulers to actively centralize their
governments, to develop new bureaucratic managing
systems, and to utilize coercive power strategies such
as expansionist warfare, ultimately leading to newly
emergent states. Hommon argues that while war itself
is not a necessary condition for state emergence, it is a
highly visible centralized political practice that leaves
archaeological traces. It is these coercive centralized
practices, rather than divine kinship (contra Kirch
2010), that Hommon puts forth as prime movers in the
Hawaiian context.
Hommons book is engaging and well-written.
It synthesizes a vast amount of material related to
social complexity and social evolution in Polynesia.
The book will be of interest to a wide range of
audiences, including Pacifc Island archaeologists
and anthropologists and scholars of social complexity
worldwide. One of the books strengths is its
entanglement with many key debates in anthropology,
notably: what to do with emergent states that do not
strictly ft typological models; diarchy and triarchy
as strategies of rule in prehistoric and modern nation
states; how to identify whether pre-contact socio-
political units were economically self-suffcient; who
controlled rights to resources; durability and fragility
of archaic states; and sources of power in emergent
states. As Hommon notes, his hard times hypothesis
converges with other crisis response models for nation
states developed in other disciplines such as political
science, economics, and history, well positioning his
work to have broad appeal in the social sciences.
Kirch, P.V. 2010. How Chiefs Became Kings: Divine Kingship
and the Rise of Archaic States in Ancient Hawaii.
Berkeley: University of California Press.
Yoffee, N. 2005. Myths of the Archaic State: Evolution of
the Earliest Cities, States, and Civilizations. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Dederen, Franois Te
Pito. Corpus Rapa Nui.
Inventaire mondial
de la statuaire en bois
de lle de Pques/
Corpus Rapa Nui.
Global inventory of the
wooden statuary of
Easter Island
Braine-LAlleud: Franois Dederen, 2013. 588 pp.
ISBN: 978-2-8052-0214-8, 978-83-60875-69-8.
40.0 + shipping (softcover). For purchase
information, contact: bernard_philippe_@;
Review by Rafal M. Wieczorek,
Harvard University
Franois Dederen is a name in no need of introduction
for Rapa Nui afcionados. He has been active in this
feld since the 1960s and has been involved in many
projects. While he is best known for his creation of high
quality, hand-carved replicas of rongorongo boards, he
has also taken on the laborious task of documenting
wooden statuettes from Rapa Nui in the collections
of world museums, and his new book, which is the
subject of this review, is a documentation of this task.
On my desk as I write is a massive, 2kg book
dedicated exclusively to the documentation of moai
kavakava and other types of Rapa Nuis wooden
statuettes collected by sailors through the centuries.
The book is bilingual; written in French with English
translations running alongside with it. The book
consists of two parts; the frst, which flls the frst 100
or so pages, is an introduction and overview of the
topic. The circumstances of formation and ultimate
fates of great Polynesian collections of Breton, Epstein,
Hooper, Oldman and others are discussed, after which
the author goes on to discuss probable signifcances
of statuary in the pre-contact culture of the island.
Dederen here gives detailed information on about 450
Easter Island statuettes belonging to moai kavakava,
moai paapaa and moai tangata types (a couple of
birdman statuettes are also featured). They are listed and
classifed according to various typological indicators
such as ear or mouth shapes. Their provenance and
current location are also provided. Cranial carvings of
130 fgurines are carefully drawn in separate fgures.
The second and main part of the book constitutes
of drawings of 450 fgurines, most in front and rear
views. Each statuette is presented in a standardized
fashion with 25 characteristic elements, like engraved
94 Rapa Nui Journal Vol. 28 (1) May 2014
eyebrows or the number of ribs, carefully recorded
and greatly simplifying cross-comparison between
different specimens. The rationale behind choosing
drawings rather than photographs has to do not only
with avoiding lengthy copyright negotiations, but also
in order to be able to portray objects in a standardized
fashion and with greater precision.
The book concentrates its efforts on wooden
fgurines, so other wooden objects such as rapa, ao,
reimiro or tahonga are not featured. The omission of
moai moko is, however, puzzling. They seem to ft
well in the stated goals of the publication, have many
common characteristics with other statuettes, like
fanned tails the same as birdman forms, and some even
feature cranial designs. Perhaps the author felt that
their inclusion would expand an already voluminous
publication to an unmanageable size.
The book arguably has many other faws; as often
occurs in self-published works, the editorial side of the
monograph leaves much to be desired. Spelling errors
are rampant, many plates with drawings are misplaced
and are therefore hard to locate, and the English
translation is at times rusty. However, all these faws
are easily forgiven because what we hold in our hands
is, at the end of the day, a very unique publication
presenting information that is otherwise not available
anywhere else in literature.
Amongst the wealth of issues available on the
subject of Rapa Nui, specialized volumes dedicated
to the wooden fgurines are rare, and this is what
makes this book so special. Even if one follows the
moai kavakava topic with commitment, he or she will
undoubtedly fnd a wealth of new, never before seen
material in Dederens book. For this reason, I highly
recommend this unique, one of a kind monograph.
The publication has limited printing of 300 copies.
Every copy is numbered and comes with a personal
dedication from the author, which is a special plus,
although the sheer weight of the book means that
shipping costs might be quite high and shipping to
anywhere in American continents doubles the price of
the book.